It’s Time to Take to the Streets

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrives to the weekly cabinet meeting at his office in Jerusalem May 5, 2019.

On Tuesday, the extension that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu received from President Reuven Rivlin to try to form a government will expire. The process of forming the fifth Netanyahu government has turned out to be a liquidation sale of Israeli democracy and the rule of law.

Having realized that a parliamentary immunity law tailored precisely to his needs would give him only limited benefits, Netanyahu now plans to pass a law that would deprive the Supreme Court of the power to intervene not just in Knesset legislation, but also in administrative decisions by the cabinet, individual ministers or the Knesset.

This proposal is meant to prevent the prime minister from standing trial in three bribery cases by allowing any decision by the Supreme Court to strip him of his parliamentary immunity to be overridden. Such legislation would effectively put elected officials’ decisions beyond the court’s power of judicial review.

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Meanwhile, the Kulanu party, which in the past voiced opposition to any measures that would undermine the justice system’s status, has suddenly changed its view. Its Knesset whip, MK Roy Folkman, told activists from the Kahol Lavan party who demonstrated outside his house on Thursday that he “unequivocally” supports passing legislation that would let the Knesset override Supreme Court decisions.

And in the coming few days, Yisrael Beiteinu party chairman Avigdor Lieberman is likely to accept the defense portfolio and the chance to flatten the Gaza Strip in exchange for joining the government.

Netanyahu’s personal considerations are transparent, and the conditions he has laid down to his future coalition partners are dangerous. But in exchange for government funding, power and authority, too many Knesset members are willing to cater to his whims. 

“These are the considerations of someone who, due to feelings of persecution, is ready to burn down the house,” former Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch said on Thursday. “Evading justice cannot be the reason for such a broad reform; it’s simply inconceivable.”

Faced with the deal now being put together in Jerusalem, the Kahol Lavan, Labor and Meretz parties have set aside the fundamental differences in their positions and joined forces to organize a demonstration that’s supposed to take place Saturday night in the plaza in front of Tel Aviv Museum.

Despite the disappointing results of last month’s election, the left must not sink into despair and throw up its hands. It’s time to take to the streets.

The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.